2020-6-09: Refuge (2 of 5) The Internal Refuge
3:02PM Jun 9, 2020
So this day I'll continue the talks on refuge. Second talk. And I'm fond of the idea that the usual expression are on refuges, gacchami, the Pali word for going to say going for refuge. And but the word going, literally in Pali means to walk. And walking, has the idea of you know, you bring all of yourself when you walk, you don't leave part of yourself back at home, when you go out for a walk. Then we bring all of ourselves into when we go for refuge. It's something that we the wholeness of who we are that we bring along, we engage and we commit to, we're involved in. And as I continue with these thoughts, kind of building on what I said yesterday, that in the last days of the Buddha's life, he said that he had not appointed anyone to be the leader of the Sangha. There was no successor for him to be the next person in charge of the community, the monastics. And this idea that this great world religious leader explicitly did not create someone else to be the leader is quite a phenomenal thing. But what he said instead, he said, Now you have the Dharma, and the vinaya, the discipline, the rules of ethical rules, especially for the monastics the Dharma and the vinaya, as your leader, as your teacher. And, here it's kind of almost as if he's saying, you have to become your own teacher. You have to know what the Dharma is, what the teachings are, where the Dharma is found within. But that's where it's found. And whether it's not found today. That's the direction we're going. To not have an external leader, but in a sense to become our own leader, become our own teacher for this.
The end of his life, after he died, someone did ask his disciple, Ananda, if the Buddha had assigned anyone to be your refuge. So person said to Ananda, now that your teacher has gone, has he appointed someone else to be the refuge? Since we often say the Buddha would go for refuge in the Buddha. And he said, no. The Buddha did not do that. And the man said did Buddha appoint anyone? Was anybody appointed by the bhikkhus, by the monastics to be the leader, to be the refuge? And he said no. The community of monks and nuns has not appointed someone now to be the refuge. But then, the men said, if you have no refuge, what's the reason for why the monastics live in concord? Why they live together peacefully in harmony? When there's no person they can go to. And the Buddha said, Now we have the Dharma as the refuge. So here again, this pointing back to the Dharma, and at the essence, the Dharma is something internal, something we discover for ourselves, it lives in us, it becomes us. We are the Dharma. And in this regard, the tradition distinguishes between two kinds of refuge. There's in the language of the ancient texts distilling the conventional refuge, the worldly refuge. And then there's the ultimate refuge or the transcendent refuge, that, that a person can take. In modern language, I understand this to be, there's the external refuge, and there's the internal refuge. That the conventional refuge is the external refuge, the refuge in the Buddha in the Dharma, and the Sangha is something external to oneself. And the ultimate refuge isn't a sense internal found, here with ourselves.
So what is it then here, that's the internal Buddha that we take refuge in? The internal Buddha is the capacity we have to dwell without being caught up in clinging, craving, hostility, hatred, without being caught up in anxiety or lost in fear, holding on to fear, without holding on to or preoccupied with conceit and selfishness, and without being indecisive or being deluded or being confused or being filled with doubt and caught in those. The capacity, it's really talking about the absence of something. The potential we have to not be caught up in things, greed, hate and delusion. Now this might seem as a kind of, you know, minor, poor, insignificant kind of refuge, the refuge of the really knowing that value of the absence of clinging and craving. And maybe it's, maybe that's kind of a small thing. However, the idea is to take refuge in that, so that we don't succumb to craving, clinging, hostility, that there's no hostility that's worth being involved in. There is no craving, grasping, tightening around that's worth doing. There's no anxiety that's worth dedicating one's life with or caught up with or really trusting and staying involved in. Of course, as human beings there can be craving and hostility, living in fear and doubt and all these things. But of course we can, we'll have those things. It's not like this is a crime to be this way. We're human. This comes with a human being, the human life. But we don't have to stay that way. We can discover something else which is also in our human nature, perhaps something deeper, something more reliable and trustable. The capacity to not cling, to not hold on. And that absence, to really trust that and take refuge in that absence means that we're less likely to trust again clinging and grasping. And to discover slowly bit by bit in small little increments perhaps, the value of not clinging. I don't have to be caught up in that thing and this thing and, you know, and all these things that you know, that many people get caught up in and concerned with. And to find tremendous value in this non-clinging. That's the refuge in the Buddha, the inner Buddha. The internal Dharma is at the essence I see, is the ability, the sensibility, the understanding, the practice of non-harming. It said in the ancient texts that the primary characteristic, manifestation of the Dharma is non-harming. And so this the practices of non-harming the practices of not harming oneself, the practice of not harming others, the understanding, the sensitivity of that, that comes from the first refuge, the refuge and non-clinging and non-grasping. And that to see that everything about the Dharma teachings arises and supports and connected to all the things in the world that involve not harming. And the opposite, that they're connected to what's beneficial and skillful and nourishing for us. That helps us to thrive internally. And so the internal refuge is to begin taking refuge in that place inside, where we don't want to harm anything. The place inside where we are ready to not invest in hostility, causing harm. To understand what is harmful and what's not harmful, what's skillful and unskillful. To understand that, for ourselves, is the refuge in dharma.
The internal Sangha is our capacity for goodwill, for care, for connectedness, our feelings of really of being kin to each other, to being in this human world together, and that we have this natural capacity, completely natural capacity that without this we would not have survived as a species. Of caring for each other, caring for our children, caring for our relatives, caring for our neighbors, caring for our tribe. And as we practice to take refuge in the inner Sangha is to expand this notion of care, beyond the usual circles where it's pretty natural to care for, until it becomes natural to care for all beings, anyone we encounter, the stranger, the neighbor, the, you know, people who come from the traveler, people who don't even see who live far away. We have a capacity for caring for our relatedness. We have a capacity to create bridges of relationships between each other that are inspiring, meaningful, wonderful. It's particularly we can do that with people we are challenged by. People we find difficulty with. That no one is left out of our hearts, even as we work for justice and work for other things that need to be done. And so this is the internal refuge. And these are things that we come to understand. Initially it might be provisional understanding, or it might be small ways that we understand it or we only understand it in very big terms, that there's, you know, there's all kinds of ways we understand it. And I use the word understanding purposefully, because it's the ancient commentaries of our tradition, the ancient teachers of our tradition. One of the ways that they understand this idea of refuge is that it's an understanding. It's not something we take on faith blindly, like just a tent into our belief that now we should and you know, trust because the source is good, But rather it's something we've come to understand for ourselves. To go for refuge is to go with, go into, what we've come to understand is to allow what we understand to be integrated into us and become who we are.
So the internal refuge is one of the meanings of going for refuge. And it's one of the ways of harmonizing the idea of refuge with the emphasis as the Buddha had and the Buddha's disciples had in the ancient world, that once the Buddha's dead, which now we is, that the refuge is found in the Dharma. The Dharma that's in us is the internal refuge. So then, tomorrow, I'll talk about the external refuge. And the external refuge is that is that the externally which resonates with the internal refuge, which is also very important for Buddhists and have faith and connection and be inspiration, the external refuge is a great support for our practice.
So, thank you very much for being here and listening and I hope that this is something that you can reflect on and I do little bit regret that during this shelter in place time, there isn't a time to meet with some of you and actually hear and be in conversation around these topics which are I think are so important. So thank you and look forward to tomorrow.